Hotfile strikes back at one of the Hollywood studios that has sued the file hosting company for copyright infringement, by claiming Warner Bros. abused Hotfile's anti-piracy tool and tried to profit from removing files, including legal ones, it did not even own
Being violently pursued by Hollywood in court, file hosting company Hotfile has fired back with its own lawsuit, claiming Warner Bros., one of the studios suing Hotfile for copyright infringement, has abused Hotfile's anti-piracy tools and the DMCA.
Hotfile developed a tool that allowed rightsholder to remove infringing files, and rightsholders were given a special account, called a 'Special Rightsholder Account' (SRA). Warner Bros. was assigned such an account, given to Michael Bentkover, Manager of Anti-Piracy Internet Operations at Warner.
However, Hotfile alleges that Warner Bros. abused their SRA privileges by removing files that they did not hold rights to, including open source files. Not only that, Hotfile claims that Warner profited from removing content that they did not own, due to an affiliate agreement between the two companies.
The user agreement for the SRA account specifies that every time the rightsholder removes content, it must agree ‘under penalty of perjury that the owner or an authorized legal representative of the owner of copyrights'. Hotfile claims that Warner Bros. did not abide by this agreement. Citing a specific example, Hotfile says in their attempt to remove infringing copies of the movie 'The Box', Warner Bros. also removed books and other content simply featuring the keyword "The Box", including the BBC production, "The Box that Saved Britain", which Warner did not hold rights to.
And Warner even deleted popular files that were perfectly legal, including an open source tool uploaded by the software's publishers, which Warner deleted, possibly only because the file was popular, as it was downloaded "five times more frequently than any other file" that Warner had deleted.
As for the claims of financial motives, Hotfile revealed that Warner Bros. approached the file hosting company with an affiliate deal in which every removed link would be replaced by a link to Warner's movie store. And by taking down popular, but legal, files, Hotfile alleges that Warner Bros. attempted to profit from the unauthorised removal of content via the SRA.
For these incidents, Hotfile accuses Warner Bros. of violation of the DMCA, intentional interference with a contractual or business relationship and negligence. Hotfile is also asking for a jury trial, compensation, as well as a permanent injunction requiring Warner Bros. to more carefully examine all files that it plans to take down.